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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Magic pills worth billions

13 November 2020

Vitamins -- vital minerals that the body needs to ensure that the myriad of chemical processes essential for life continue.

Fortunes have been made by convincing the general public that "if a little is good, more is better" by way of vitamin supplements.

The reality is that so long as you're eating a healthy diet with a diversity of food types then the need for supplementation is minimal. In fact for years we've been told that vitamin supplements are just a waste of money and do little except produce colourful urine and line the pockets of those who sell them.

Of course popular belief, often fostered by the companies making these things, has often run contrary to the science of the day. We were told for decades that taking extra vitamin C would protect us from flu and colds, despite the fact that even the most positive clinical studies challenged that assertion.

There was also a time when we were told that vitamin E was the magic bullet that would emhance our libido, fire up our immune systems and give us a glossy coat with shiny eyes.

More snake oil?

Of course it's not just the traditional vitamins that get the "more is better" treatment by their purveyors.

All manner of other dietary supplements claim to have miraculous benefits.

Omega 3 fatty acids (often from fish oil) do wonderful things to not only your immune system but your entire body chemistry... allegedly.

Magnesium will help you sleep better, reduce anxiety and prevent muscle cramps.

Calcium will build stronger bones, zinc will prevent colds, etc, etc, etc.

And now, in the era of CV19, we're being told that the magic bullet is now Vitabmin D.

Apparently, patients with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to suffer symptoms of CV19 that require hospital treatment and their prognosis is far worse than those who have normal or elevated levels. There was an interesting paper in The Lancet on this subject.

As a result of these findings, people are being encouraged to take a regular daily supplement of vitamin D as a preventative and as a way of giving your body the best possible chance of fighting off the virus if you're exposed to it.

This time there does actually seem to be clinical evidence to support these claims and I must admit that I've been taking 1000 iu of the stuff since autumn, just in case.

Apparently we don't need it in the summer months, unless we have deeply pigmented skin but, during winter, even a healthy diet is unlikely to provide sufficient vitamin D to ensure blood-serum levels are adequate.

I wonder if now would be a good time to invest in companies manufacturing and selling vitamin D supplements, given that CV19 is still running rampant around the world and the Northern hemisphere is about to plunge into winter.

Could vitamin D be the most important dietary supplement anyone should be taking, at least for six months of the year? Addition studies like this one seem to provide even more compelling evidence to support this assertion.

Just as a matter of interest, what supplements do readers take on a regular basis.

Personally, I take several:

  • vitamin C, horseradish and garlic
  • 400mg magnesium
  • 1000 iu vitamin D
  • 2g creatine

Do I need them?

Well even if I don't the placebo is strong in these :-)

The vitamin C/horseradish/garlic is the only thing I've found that keeps my chronic sinus problems under control on a long-term basis. The magnesium certainly does help with the cramps that follow periods of dystonia caused by the Parkinsons. The vitamin D is "just in case" and the creatine appears to have reduced the rate at which the Parkinson's progresses, as well as providing valuable extra physical and mental energy reserves during the day (I mowed grass for three hours continous yesterday with my rotary push-mower -- not bad for a 67-year-old)).

Would I die if I stopped taking these pills?

I doubt it.

Would my quality of life reduce?

Yes, I believe it would and for that reason they're worth the money, at least to me.

But what about you? Do you rely solely on a good diet or are you also sucked in by the promises made for these magic little pills?

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